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Kibbud Av B'machshavah


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#1 Guest_emoticon_*

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 09:30 PM

What exactly is the halachic obligation of kibbud av b'machshavah?
  • Is it an avierah to think scornfully of a parent?
  • What if one's parent acts in a way that is contradictory to Torah--must he still honor his parent in his thoughts?
  • If one sees a parent acting inappropriately--is he obligated to ignore the behavior and not think about it? Is one allowed to think in his head, "my father has an awful temper," "my father is so selfish," etc.?**
  • If one fulfills the rest of the mitzvah (speech and deed) to the best of his ability--is it true that he has not fulfilled his obligation until he respects his parent b'machshavah?

**Of course, there are still separate obligations of dan lekaf zechus and hakaras hatov. My question pertains specifically to the halachic parameters of kibbud av.


#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 08:43 AM

Kibud Av requires, besides actions, that a person not think of his parents with disrespect., or as his equal. Kibud Av requires one to look at their parents as a prominent person in their eyes. (see Sefer Chareidim ch. 1 Mitzvos Hateluyos Belev, Chaye Adam 67:3. According to the Aruch HaShulchan, "kibud" only requires actions, but the obligation of "moreh" includes thoughts.)

The way to accomplish this is, you should try to find good traits in your parents and focus on them more than you would in a regular person. It is perfectly OK not to be objective here - that is exactly what the Halachah wants you to do. Also, we know that actions have a tendency to affect our attitudes, so if a person goes out of his way to show his parents honor in actions, it will help him internalize that honor and think of them respectfully as well. (This is besides the obligation of being דן לכף זכות that applies to all Jews.)

However, if after you really try to do this you still do not find it in your heart to look at your parents with respect, then you are an אונס, because you did whatever you could, and we cannot expect someone to do or say of think something that they are not able to.

As far as parents that violate the Torah, the obligation to honor parents in thought ("belev") and in action go hand in hand. Regarding parents that go against the Torah, the story is as follows:

The Rambam's opinion is that a person is obligated to honor his parents even if they are Reshayim. The Ramah brings an opinion that disagrees.

There is a disagreement in the poskim whether the Rambam is referring only to a parent who is just a "temporary Rasha," meaning, he is in general a Torah-observant Jew, but he has done some terrible things. But if a parent is constantly doing aveiros, or is totally non-observant, even the Rambam would agree that there is no Mitzvah of Kibud. Part of the reason for this is because if a person does a one-time sin, we can hope that he did Teshuva.

L'maaseh, if a parent does not keep the Torah at all, or constantly flagrantly violates the Torah, you do not need to be mechabed him, neither in actions or thoughts (assuming you are an Ashkenzai and follow the Ramah). That is certainly so if he does not believe in the Torah altogether. However, if his sinfulness was merely aberrational, you still should be mechabed him regardless of what he did.

Of course, that is the basic, bare-bones Halachah. By being respectful to parents who constantly sin, it is likely to be better for your Sholom Bayis, plus much more likely to help them do Teshuva. You accomplish more with honey than vinegar. However, in such a case, b'machshava you may think of them as they are.

#3 emoticon

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 11:19 PM

Ok. So let's say there is one area- one trait- for which I respect my father, בדרך כלל.
But then sometimes, or oftentimes, when I see him acting inappropriately... I feel repulsed.
Are those feelings of repulsion a violation of כיבוד אב? Is the fact that I even evaluate "inappropriate behavior" in regard to my father also a violation of כיבוד אב במחשבה? After all, I would never evaluate the גדול הדור for "inappropriate behavior."

#4 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 07:47 PM

You are not obligated to be blind, but you are obligated to judge him lekaf zechus (or perhaps even better, not to judge him at all), and to maintain his status on a pedestal in your eyes despite whatever inappropriate actions you observe.

And when I say judging him lekaf zechus that includes not merely that the action may not be as you perceive, but – and this is just a guess, but from experience I’d venture to say that the following is much more pertinent than judging him lekaf zechus – that you are not aware of the size or type of Yetzer Horah your father has that is motivating him to do whatever it is he is doing. More than הוי דן את כל אדם לכף זכות, you need to fulfill אל תדין את חברך עד שתגיע למקומו. You can’t put yourself in your father’s shoes. Everyone has their own personal issues, and children especially have a tendency to be incognizant of the Yetzer Horahs of their parents, especially in certain areas, which, again, this is just a guess but from the way you are talking I’d say that the type of behavior that you see in your father is in those areas.

Now I have a question for you: Are you equally repulsed if you were to know or see that some stranger doing the same inappropriate acts? Obviously you’d think it’s equally inappropriate, but the feeling of revulsion – do you have that every time you become aware that anyone did such an aveirah?

If not, then why specifically your father, and why specifically this particular aveirah (whatever it may be)? If there is some underlying prejudice or animosity toward him, that is definitely something you want to try to deal with, beside the religious issues.

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 08:26 PM

That's really something for me to think about- the עד שתגיע למקומו... Thanks.
As far as what bothers me... it's not a specific aveirah. When I see him disregarding certain הלכות, I can be דן לכף זכות. It's more certain behaviors...

#6 taon

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 07:29 PM

behaviours are harder to change than halachic laxity..

#7 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 07:40 PM

Sometimes. But that just makes אל תדין את חברך עד שתגיע למקומו more relevant.

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Posted 16 April 2011 - 08:33 PM

What if some of the דן לכף זכות is disrespectful, kinda?

For example: When I see my father ignoring very basic הלכה- never davening, not making ברכות, ignoring things like מוקצה, etc...
So I was thinking: If I saw a little baby eating without a ברכה- would I think that baby is 'bad'? Nope... because he's just a baby, after all! I think that my father is a baby, in some ways- he's a תינוק שנשבה. Not captive to a secular upbringing, but captive to the chains of hurt, anger, emotional imbalances, and יצר הרע.
And when I'm watching him do something wrong, I keep repeating in my head "baby... just a baby..." and I even try to visualize a little kid.
That helps- it makes me less upset and more understanding, and I can't say I manage to think this way every time, but I'm trying.
But isn't there something wrong with that? Isn't it a lack of respect to picture a baby with a chocolate smeared face in regard to my father? Isn't it disrespectful to tell myself "he's just a baby"? But I don't know how else to work it. I'm confused.

Also, in regard to things that nauseate me- gross pictures on his computer screen, basic mannerisms, movies that are rated idk what, foul language...
So I was thinking (sorry if this is a little graphic): Yes, it's gross, it's nauseating, it's repulsive to any sensitive person. But y'know what it is? It's like an oozing wound, roiling with pus and blood. It's gross, it's hard to look at, and the bandages might even smell unpleasant... but it's coming from a wound, from a sore, from something that hurts very much.
So that also helps... but isn't that wrong?!?!? It's not respectful- it's pitying!

I AM REALLY CONFUSED WITH THIS WHOLE BUSINESS. I'M TRYING REALLY HARD, AND I AM GETTING SOMEWHERE- EVEN OVER THE COURSE OF THIS PAST WEEK, I REALLY NOTICED SOME DIFFERENCES- BUT I AM SO CONFUSED ABOUT כבוד!

#9 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 08:32 AM

אל תדין את חברך עד שתגיע למקומו does not mean to judge him as a baby or a cripple or an ignoramus. It means not to judge him at all. Meaning, it's not your business to think about his accountability or status. And that's referring to plain people, not your father or mother. What is causing your father or mother to do whatever they do is not your business, and so long as they are still covered by the Torah's command of Kibud Av V'Em, neither are their actions themselves. You obviously should not learn from their bad traits but the entire subject matter is not yours to delve into. It is not your job, and it is not your business.

It is very difficult for people to be objective about their parents, and that goes two ways - it is hard to see their faults, and it's also hard to see past their faults. Listen - these people brought you into the world. The Torah wants you to look at them in a positive manner. You must understand that they have a Yetzer Horah like all other people and we cannot judge anyone without knowing the force of that Yezter Horah, which you don't. Never mind that you can't know anyone's Yezter; it is much harder for children to understand the Yetzer Horah of their parents. It's the way Hashem made the world.

I understand that you're repulsed and disgusted and all that. But please understand that Hashem Who said these acts are repulsive and disgusting, is the same Hashem Who said don't focus on them when it comes to your parents. Again - so long as the Mitzvah of Kibud Av V'Em is still in effect you need to focus on the positive.

So it's great that you are working on it and making progress. To make more progress you need to be clear on what your goal is here. Your goal is not to be blind to what your parents are doing, but that it shouldn't matter to you. Don't judge them. You don't know enough about what they went through and are going through to do that. Besides, it's not your business to judge them anyway.

You are aware of what they are doing but Hashem said it should not get in the way of your Kovod for them. That means ignore it. It's not your business. It has no significance in your life. Remember: The same Hashem Who said these things are wrong said that in your case, they should not matter to you.